Cerumen is the soft yellow wax made by glands in your ear canal. It is more commonly known as earwax. Cerumen impaction is a buildup of earwax that becomes wedged in, blocking the ear canal.
Cerumen impaction is usually caused by:
Cerumen impaction is more common in older adults. It can cause hearing loss.
Other factors that may increase your chance of cerumen impaction include:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An ear exam will be done to look for impacted cerumen.
Treatment involves removal of the earwax from the ear canal. Cerumen can be removed by:
Earwax moves out of your ear naturally. Earwax should not be removed by you. In fact, continuously trying to clean your ear of cerumen by using a cotton swab, for example, can damage your ear. By trying to remove earwax, you can:
To help reduce your chance of cerumen impaction:
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech–Language–Hearing Association
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Armstrong C. Diagnosis and Management of Cerumen Impaction. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Nov 1;80(9):1011-1013. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1101/p1011.html.
Cerumen impaction. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/cerumen-impaction-earwax-buildup-and-blockage. Updated December 20, 2013. Accessed August 22, 2017.
Cerumen impaction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T230359/Cerumen-impaction. Updated May 18, 2017. Accessed August 22, 2017.
2/26/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T230359/Cerumen-impaction: Ear candles: risk of serious injuries. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm201108.htm. Updated September 5, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.